Heart Disease: A Quick Overview

What it is. Coronary heart disease, also called CHD, is the most common form of heart disease. It occurs when blood vessels in the heart narrow through a condition called atherosclerosis. When these vessels narrow or clog, the heart muscle can’t get the oxygen it needs to function. This can cause pain, or it can lead to a heart attack or sudden death.

How it is diagnosed. To determine if you have CHD, doctors look at your symptoms, your risk factors for heart disease, and whether you have a family history of CHD. Your doctor may also use a variety of diagnostic tests ranging from a stress test to a chest X-ray. These tests can help rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.


How it is treated. CHD can’t be cured. The goals of treatment are to prevent CHD from getting worse and to avoid serious complications, such as a heart attack. There are three main ways to achieve these goals. The first is to make changes in your personal lifestyle, such as cutting down on the fat you eat or quitting smoking. The second is to take medicines. The third, for the most severe cases, is angioplasty or surgery.

Coronary heart disease, called CHD for short, occurs when blood vessels that supply the heart with blood and oxygen narrow. This narrowing takes place through a process called atherosclerosis. When this happens, your heart can’t get all the oxygen it needs to pump blood to all parts of the body.

CHD is sometimes called ischemic heart disease. It may also be called coronary artery disease, or CAD for short. It is a disease that deserves your attention. CHD poses serious threats to your health and the quality of your life. The most serious threat is the possibility of becoming disabled or even dying from a heart attack. But this doesn’t have to happen to you. There are positive steps you can take, starting today. These actions will help reduce your chances of developing complications of CHD.

If you don’t have CHD, you can take steps now to reduce your risk of getting it. To find out more, see What are the CHD risk factors I can control? The same lifestyle choices people make to manage CHD will work to lower your risk of getting it.

If you already have CHD, you can take steps to reduce its impact on your life and to reduce your risk of an early death. Follow the guidelines in Are lifestyle changes the right choice for me?

In either case, the more you know about CHD, the better. What you learn here will help you reduce the threat that CHD poses to your well-being, including the threats of heart attack and sudden cardiac death.


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